Forest of Hours

Yes, I am obsessed with my mushroom friends.

Today, my friend Jindu wrote a poem of time and story and God, and I let that wave roll over me as I sat down to write my own poem. I think I let the poem tell me enough about myself to make me a little uncomfortable, maybe light a fire under me.

Forest of Hours
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

The clock has berated me all day,
complaining about my betrayal of time,
scorning the way I keep getting lost
in the forest of hours,
claiming I should be familiar
with the pathway home by now.

I am not time’s fool, you know,
nor God’s familiar. I’m no black cat,
no ignorant—or innocent—
child in the fairy tale. I know what I’m doing.
I’m wasting not time, but self.

I’m listening for the sound God makes
as she sings through the branches
of these hours that surround me.
I know in my bones that the story
has a hole in it somewhere, know without asking
that the wolf is standing there
right behind my left shoulder, and also
that there is a well in a stone tower
within a grove of oak
that holds the secret,
if only I can find the key
to fit the door.

But who is telling this story?
I could have sworn it was God,
but maybe I’m just fooling myself, brother.
Maybe the wolf has been lying to me
all along. Maybe God rides a broomstick
through the waving branches.
Maybe the story is telling itself.

Perhaps the clock has a point.
I am, after all, a middle-aged poet
with nothing much to show for my life’s work
but these rags, this tarnished key,
and the sense that I’ll find the secret
of the story in the next bright clearing.


“There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.” —Samwise Gamgee


“When you hit a wrong note, it’s the next note that you play that determines if it’s good or bad.” —Miles Davis


“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.” —Frida Kahlo


A little story by Amrita Nadi:
At the end of a talk someone from the audience asked the Dalai Lama, “Why didn’t you fight back against the Chinese?”
The Dalai Lama looked down, swung his feet just a bit, then looked back up at us and said with a gentle smile, “Well, war is obsolete, you know.”
Then, after a few moments, his face grave, he added, “Of course the mind can rationalize fighting back. . .but the heart, the heart would never understand. Then you would be divided in yourself, the heart and the mind, and the war would be inside you.”


“There are moments when I feel like giving up or giving in, but I soon rally again and do my duty as I see it: to keep the spark of life inside me ablaze.” —Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life


“Always there is something worth saying
about glory, about gratitude.”
—Mary Oliver, What Do We Know


Do your little bit of good where you are;
its those little bits of good put together,
that overwhelm the world.
—Desmond Tutu


“You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.” —Jeannette Rankin


When we see the Beloved in each person,
it’s like walking through a garden,
watching flowers bloom all around us. —Ram Dass


“You came into this world as a radiant bundle of exuberant riddles. You slipped into this dimension as a shimmering burst of spiral hallelujahs. You blasted into this realm as a lush explosion of ecstatic gratitude. And it is your birthright to fulfill those promises.
I’m not pandering to your egotism by telling you these things. When I say, “Be yourself,” I don’t mean you should be the self that wants to win every game and use up every resource and stand alone at the end of time on top of a Mt. Everest-sized pile of pretty garbage.
When I say, “Be yourself,” I mean the self that says “Thank you!” to the wild irises and the windy rain and the people who grow your food. I mean the rebel creator who’s longing to make the whole universe your home and sanctuary. I mean the dissident bodhisattva who’s joyfully struggling to germinate the seeds of divine love that are packed inside every moment.
When I say, “Be yourself,” I mean the spiritual freedom fighter who’s scrambling and finagling and conspiring to relieve your fellow messiahs from their suffering and shower them with rowdy blessings.” —Rob Brezsny


“The root of joy is gratefulness…It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” ―Brother David Steindl-Rast

Doing What I Cannot in Order to Learn

Monday’s Muses:
“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” —Robert Frost


“I am always doing what I cannot do yet
in order to learn how to do it.” —Vincent van Gogh


“Have you been to jail for justice? Then you’re a friend of mine.” —Anne Feeney


“Nice people made the best Nazis. My mom grew up next to them. They got along, refused to make waves, looked the other way when things got ugly and focused on happier things than “politics.” They were lovely people who turned their heads as their neighbors were dragged away. You know who weren’t nice people? Resisters.” —Naomi Shulman


“‎The desire to reach the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise and most possible.” —Maya Angelou


“Begin with something in your range. Then write it as a secret. I’d be paralyzed if I thought I had to write a great novel, and no matter how good I think a book is on one day, I know now that a time will come when I will look upon it as a failure. The gratification has to come from the effort itself. I try not to look back. I approach the work as though, in truth, I’m nothing and the words are everything. Then I write to save my life. If you are a writer, that will be true. Writing has saved my life.” —Louise Erdrich (via Terri Windling’s Myth and Moor blog)


“This is the season of owl,
of winds that howl through the hollow,
the season of the sharp bark
of the fox, voicing longing in the bosque.

This is the season of bitter,
of fierce flakes feathering cheeks and hands,
the season of crystal, crisp and cutting,
of beauty that will slice you open.

This is the season of rising,
thin and pale, into the dawn air,
but also of burrowing, huddling deep
into the layers that hold you.

Walk the thin line of today with care,
one foot precisely placed, the other. . .

Perhaps you will notice,
when you raise your eyes for a moment,
how the line curves out ahead of you,
bringing you
always
back home.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider (1/13/16)


“Love the earth and sun and animals,
Despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks,
Stand up for the stupid and crazy,
Devote your income and labor to others…
Re-examine all you have been told
at school or church or in any book;
Dismiss whatever insults your own soul;
And your very flesh shall be a great poem.”
—Walt Whitman


“In lying to others we end up lying to ourselves. We deny the importance of an event, or a person, and thus deprive ourselves of a part of our lives. Or we use one piece of the past or present to screen out another. Thus we lose faith even within our own lives.

“The unconscious wants truth, as the body does. The complexity and fecundity of dreams come from the complexity and fecundity of the unconscious struggling to fulfill that desire.” —Adrienne Rich


Gratitude List:
1. This Jungian Life podcast. The one on Shame, in particular. Reminder that finding delight in each other combats shame. Reminder to examine the ways I live by shame instead of by belonging.
2. I think I am ready for the new classes to start. I love the three classes I am teaching this semester: Speech, AP Composition (College Composition I), and Creative Writing.
3. Yesterday’s lovely weather–practicing archery with the kid.
4. Remembering: I don’t have to be perfect. Just good enough. And me–just me.
5. Church fellowship meals.

May we walk in Beauty!

Battle the Fear

Today’s prompt was a fill-in-the-blank title: Battle __(blank)__

Battle the Fear

Walk this way without shame.
Your head will touch the clouds.
Your eyes will shine with the glow
of the new-risen moon.

The Fear will track you
through the wastelands
like a wolf on a scent.
It will hunt you like a lion
across the wide fields.

Listen to the ticking of your heart
and the gentle whisper of breath
as it slides in and out of the bags of your lungs.

Blood and breath will be your companions.
Carry your bowl of stones and feathers
and do not look back.

Whistle in the darkness.
Sing your heart’s own melody.
Remember, always,
the light at the center
of your being.

(www.farmpoem.wordpress.com)

Despise Not Small Things


The theme of my cousin Ken’s words at Uncle Harold’s funeral last night. Uncle Harold loved the small, the miniature, the tiny. His delight in tiny things led the rest of us toward wonder as well. He offered us a great example of the power of giving great attention to his craft, and to small acts of kindness and love.  


“Live in the center of your life.” ―Sark
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“Cluster together like stars.” ―Henry Miller
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“Now that you’ve awakened. . .immediately take a nap! Naps are when the angels come out to take special care of you.” ―Sark (I think naps help to cement and deepen the insights we have in waking life.)
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“We live by mystery, not by explanations.” —Cecil Collins
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“Every child of ours needs to learn the simple truth: She is the energy of the Sun. And we adults should organize things so her face shines with the same radiant joy.” ―Rob Brezsny
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“In mythos and fairy tales, deities and other great spirits test the hearts of humans by showing up in various forms that disguise their divinity. They show up in robes, rags, silver sashes, or with muddy feet. They show up with skin dark as old wood, or in scales made of rose petal, as a frail child, as a lime-yellow old woman, as a man who cannot speak, or as an animal who can. The great powers are testing to see if humans have yet learned to recognize the greatness of soul in all its varying forms.” ― Clarissa Pinkola Estés
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“A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except to be able to grow in rows” ― Doug Larson


Yesterday, after I wrote about the Shameshadow, I began to think about the indicators and symptoms of unacknowledged shame, signposts I can see much more clearly when I look backwards than when I walk among them.

1. Pacifiers: For me, this has been Facebook, or reading, or any odd task that took me out of my inner space–usually Facebook surfing. Whenever I have a free moment, instead of settling into myself, I find myself gravitating to the computer. “I just want to check this one thing.” Anything so I don’t have to be alone inside my own head. Seeking outside comfort first, and avoiding discomfort at all costs. This sounds to me like the definition of an addiction.
2. Affirmations: Affirmation begins to mean more than it should. You know what I mean? I think that it’s important to spread the love around, to affirm each other, to tell each other the positive things we see. When I begin to ignore my shadows, I find myself seeking affirmation, basking in any little tidbit. Like the pacifiers, affirmation in this case leaves me feeling a little hollow, wanting more, rather than resting in the beauty of the connection between myself and the other person.
3. Excuses: The underbelly of the affirmation-crutch is the excuse-machine. When I am avoiding looking into myself and my shadows, instead of developing a healthy awareness of my human limitations, I make excuses for my shame.
4. Reading instead of doing: I am an English teacher, and far be it from me to suggest that reading is a bad thing. Still, there are times when I find that I am reading about inner work rather than doing inner work, and calling that sufficient. Don’t get me wrong: Reading often leads me into inner work, gives me the inspiration and ideas to move more deeply inward. But when I am avoiding myself, I find that I can use the reading about inner work as an avoidance of actually doing it, taking an intellectual path rather than that little trail that leads to the heart.
5. Chronic Feelings of Embarrassment: I call this Alfred Prufrocking. Like T. S. Eliot’s character, I find myself asking, “Do I dare? What will people think?” Poor Alfred. He didn’t even know how he ought to part his hair in order to please people. He didn’t dare to eat a peach. What a fearful and tremulous way to live. Embarrassment tames and domesticates us. It kills our essential wildness.

I remain grateful for this current encounter with my shadows. Funny thing about the Shameshadow is that I feel sort of ashamed for experiencing shame, like I should somehow be more evolved than that. Ha. I’m walking around in a big old circle there.


Gratitude List:
1. Bree Newsome. Remember her? She climbed the flagpole to take down the offensive flag. When she was arrested, she calmly recited ancient biblical poetry. She looked positively joyful. Her act woke people up. Be like Bree.
2. Kettle of vultures above Columbia. Usually the Columbia vulture club has about seven or eight members. Yesterday, I drove underneath a kettle that must have contained at least fifty birds. Vultures symbolize the dying of old patterns, old ideas, old habits, old chains, and the transformation of all that is dead into new energy, new life, new flight.
3. Family time, and remembering a good, good man. We met to say farewell to a beloved uncle last night. I will miss his gentle smile, his good humor, and his accordion music. I remember at least two family reunions that I left with a voice hoarse from singing along.
4. Establishing new rhythms and patterns. Now I really fully enter summer. May it be fruitful and fun.
5. The way paying attention leads to seeing new things. I have been doing zentangles again as a way to focus my brain, slow me down, and help me to be conscious of my breathing. Suddenly, I am seeing beautiful lines everywhere. That dull brown moth on the curtain actually has an intricate, delicate pattern of fine lines on her wings. Today I will be looking for elegant lines.

May we walk in Beauty!

Facing the Shameshadow

  

      

   

      

I am home again, after four days of silence at the Jesuit Center at Wernersville. I feel refreshed, reprogrammed, reset, re-energized, rejuvenated, renovated. I needed this one more than I realized. I wasn’t admitting to myself quite the extent of the bubble I had placed between me and the world. When you live with your heart on your sleeve, it can begin to feel like you’re immune to the numbing effects of addictions and sadnesses and avoidance of the inward pathways. I think I knew that I had been veering off, not walking deeply to center, not really wanting to see myself.

It’s a long and messy story, full of my own self-absorbed wanderings. It’s about the sudden weight gain, about Facebook as pacifier, about the news cycle. It’s name is Shame. I hate it when I have to go back and work through something I have already been through, but there it is. It took me two days of walking and making art and standing in doorways to finally step through and look that Shadowself in the face and name it: Shame. I have been living by shame, and refusing to call it by its name.

The Shameshadow had been lurking at my heels, a menacing old dog. I called it Anxiety. I called it Exhaustion. I called it by the name of our new president. But when I turned and called it by its true name–Shame–it bounded up to me and began to teach me. Those other names were simply things it fed on and symptoms. It was one of those Illuminating Moments, an Epiphany. I am under no illusions. I am sure it will probably begin to lurk and growl again someday, but then I must remember that it will have more to teach me.

I don’t like that that my Shadowself so often goes by the name of Shame. I want to exorcise it once and for all, not live with it crowding my heels. But this seems to be the way of it. It returns again and again to teach me. I am grateful for the messages.

After my moment of Epiphany, I walked out to the labyrinth. At every turning, I dropped a shamebundle. You don’t want to know these, do you? It’s things like the constantly messy/dirty house, sudden weight gain, use of FB to numb anxiety, not paying enough attention to the boys, being too hard on the boys, not being the perfect teacher, not getting my grading done in a timely fashion–that gives you the picture. Some of them, I picked up again on the way out of the labyrinth, not as shame, but as ideas for satisfying my heart.

And yes, I have spoken to the Shameshadow time and again in my life. It can feel like I’ve slid back down the longest slide in the game of Chutes and Ladders, but I find the spiral a much more helpful metaphor. I have been here before, on a previous cycle, but I am spiraling onward. I am not  where I once was, just at a further loop on the spiral.

May we all find the courage to turn and call our Shadowdogs by name, and wait quietly to learn what they have to teach us.


One more thing about the monastery. My friend Ruth Ann and I decided to take our silent retreat at the same time this year. We spoke together about our intentions and hopes before we sank into silence, and then we surfaced into a quiet reflective conversation at the end. In between, we left books in the hallway outside each other’s doors. Having a silent witness and being a silent witness was a powerful experience. It was a deep and powerful level of Companionship that mirrored and enhanced the work with the inner Companionself.


Jan Richardson:
did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?
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“I have woven a parachute out of everything broken.” —William Stafford
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“There are years that ask the question and years that answer.” —Zora Neale Hurston
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“Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living in better conditions.” —Hafiz
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Sign on a stone at the monastery: “I am now.”
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“One puts down the first line. . .in trust that life and language are abundant enough to complete it.” —Wendell Berry
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“Speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee.” —Job 12:8
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“Sometimes the truth depends on a walk around the lake.” —Wallace Stevens
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“Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.” —Emily Dickinson
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“The contemplative stance is the third way. We stand in the middle, neither taking the world on from another power position nor denying it for fear of the pain it will bring. We hold the dark side of reality and the pain of the world until it transforms us, knowing that we are both complicit in the evil and can participate in wholeness and holiness.” —Richard Rohr
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“Always we begin again.” —St. Benedict
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Thomas Merton: “There are only three stages to this work: to be a beginner, to be more of a beginner, and to be only a beginner.”
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“If the Angel deigns to come it will be because you have convinced her, not by tears, but by your humble resolve to be always beginning; to be a beginner.” —Rainer Maria Rilke
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“When you have stood at the edge of the pool
and concentrated your will upon it,
a moment will arrive to ask you the question,
“What do you see?” and you will not know
whether you are gazing at the surface
or into the depths, or into the very woods itself.
All will be one, and it will be into your own soul
that you are gazing.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider
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“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” Rumi
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“Ask much,” the voice suggested, and I startled.
Feeling my body like the trembling body of a horse
tied to its tree while the strange noise
passes over its ears.
I who in extremity had always wanted less,
even of eating, of sleeping.
Agile, the voice did not speak again, but waited.
“Want more” –
a cure for longing I had not thought of.
But that is how it is with wells.
Whatever is taken refills to the steady level.
The voice agreed, though softly, to quiet the feet of the horse:
“A cup taken out, a cup reappears; a bucketful taken, a bucket.”
Jane Hirshfield


Gratitude List:
1. What the Shameshadow will teach me if I will listen
2. Clearing
3. Doorways
4. Beech Cathedral and Labyrinth
5. The Art Room at the Jesuit Center
6. Cloister walks–there is something deeply TRUE about archways. Something in my spirit recognizes the deep significance of archways, even if I cannot find the words to explain.
7. Being home again. Establishing the summer rhythms.

May we walk in Beauty! With sunshine sparkling all around.

Needing the Practice

treelabyrinth
The tree at the center of the labyrinth. Camp Hebron.

Today is one of the days that I really need to do the gratitude work.  I know this because it was hard to make the list today. I’m not falling apart and I am not depressed. I’m just huffy and grumpy and a little stressed out. When I go inside myself to seek the things that I am grateful about, and all I can find is little orts of shame and grumbliness, then I know I need to breathe into it.

I used to walk away from those uncomfortable feelings: “I shouldn’t be feeling shame. Brene Brown says that it is unhelpful! I don’t like grouchy people. Negativity brings us all down.” But they’re there. If I growl at them and walk away, they always grow.

So I’ll sit down a while with them, roll out a few marbles of gratitude that I find tucked in my pockets, and play a little while, see what happens.

As my wise mother tells me: “It doesn’t have to be either/or. It can be both/and.” I don’t have to be a calm and grateful person OR a grouchy bear. This morning, both apply. At least the grateful bit can help to tame the grouchy bear so she doesn’t go around mauling people.

Gratitude List:
1. Dragonflies. I don’t think I am being too whimsical when I say that I think they like to people watch.
2. Stroopies: Perfect little waffle snack with a sweet caramel center. A local company with a mission to hire refugees. May they grow and thrive.
3. Getting to try again. This one is a little shame-based, perhaps. I brought a child to tears last night with my program to get the homework and music practice done. I was a bit of a bully, even if I was trying to be friendly about it. I think he forgives me. I treated him like a problem to be solved. We’ll figure it out. We’ll try again, and I will go in next time with more self-awareness and compassion.
4. Growing into the roles.
5. Reaching the little goals.

May we walk in Beauty!

Weary

I am so weary.
So furious and weary.
So weary of my fury.

You’ve got your hands in the air.
I’ve got my hands at your back.
They’ve got their hands on your throat,
and our hands are prying at them,
our hands are clawing with all our might.
We are screaming with all the strength
our sob-wrenched throats can utter.

And the hands that hold the gun,
the hands that squeeze the breath,
they look like mine.

The voice that says,
again and again,
in such a tone of reason,
that rings in my ears,
“Not guilty. Not guilty. Not guilty.”
It sounds like mine, somehow.